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A little over a month ago, I blogged how I shut off my RSS feed on my blog to replace it with an email newsletter. You can read more about that decision here: Blog Update: No more RSS, Moving New Blog Post Notifications to Email.

Today I've turned the RSS feature back on for new posts, however, the only thing in that post is a message about going to the site to read the whole post, not the body of the actual blog post.

Background

When I made that decision, made the change & published that post, I had a plan in place to test a little experiment. Thankfully my theory worked out exactly like I suspected. So what happened... what was the reaction from folks when I did this? I noticed two things:

  • Email Subscribers Skyrocketed: The first two days I saw a LOT of people open subscribe to my newsletter where I was publishing posts. That was nice to see... the number has since quadrupled the number of subscribers I seeded it with (more on the seeding process below... a lesson learned).
  • Vocal Minority Wasn't Happy: I use the word minority intentionally here... I did hear from a few people, mostly on Twitter, weren't happy with the decision. I expected that to happen... people didn't want one more email in their inbox. Personally, I think it's amusing one more email was going to annoy folks... but to each their own. I had a goal for doing this and I knew it wouldn't work for some folks.

What I didn't share at the time of the change was that I had every intention of turning on the RSS feed again, but in a modified way. As you'll see today, the RSS feed is back and includes all posts when I publish them. However, you'll notice the difference is the body of the item in the RSS feed no longer contains the actual post. If you want the post, come to my site. This addresses the problems I have with RSS and a technical blog.

But what it also does is it lets people get notifications the way they see fit; they aren't forced into an email.

How Did it Affect The Site?

You might wonder, "how did this affect traffic on the site?" Hey, it was a risk... that's for sure! I was a little nervous but it was worth a shot. In the end, I didn't affect traffic a single bit. Check this graph out... it covers from June 1 through August 30 (I shut the RSS off on July 27, where the arrow is):

Notice there was no drop in traffic after July 27... good news to me... no impact to the traffic.

But the reason I made this decision was NOT to see how the traffic was affected on the site. That was clearly a risk. The reasons, as I explained in the post on July 27, was to get better insights from my readers on what they liked. And THAT is exactly what I'm getting.

As you can see from the numbers below, I'm seeing about 20-30% of the people who subscribed to the email alerts are opening the emails. There are likely more who are reading it, but the only way you can tell if someone opens an email is if they allow images to load in the email. Many people don't do this, but it's simply a limitation of the technology.

What I was hoping to see was the number of people who actually clicked on links in the email. Those are people who used the email to go read the entire post on my site. You can see what things are interesting to folks. This is what I was really after... what are people interested in. This will be fun to watch over time.

Takeaway Lesson

I had a list of email addresses from a lot of people who were using Feedburner's (the service I use to syndicate my RSS feed) Feed-To-Email feature. I loaded them into the email service I use. The first email was a bit eye opening... apparently, Feedburner wasn't removing emails when a hard bounce happened. A significant number of hard bounces happened on that first post which triggered the email service to disable my account. Ends up over 40% were bad emails... that was a bit shocking.

I started looking at the bounces... wow that was disappointing for Feedburner. I found emails that clearly weren't valid. There was even the email andrew@mindsharp.com... I worked at Mindsharp from 2006-2007... the email had been shut off sometime in 2008. REALLY Feedburner?

It will be fun to watch over time how people react to different topics and what people are really interested in. Thanks for being part of this little experiment over the last month... if you've read this far, I didn't completely lose you! :)

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